Autumn Mourning Opening

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harunokaze's avatar
By harunokaze
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Literature Text

Had it not been her wedding day, Leralia would have never discovered the man bleeding in her father's stables. It was early evening and she should have been in a carriage, headed for her husband's estates. She should have been gently drunk on honeyed wine. She should have, at the very least, been married. Instead, unwed and yet to change out of her gown, she had been sent to check on the horses.
Another piece for :iconwriters-workshop:. This time, choosing my own past workshop to do. I chose the workshop :iconbeccalicious: did, New Beginnings.

The paragraph is the first paragraph for the novel I'm working on Autumn Mourning. It's been messed with and adjusted and changed and I'm still not entirely happy with it, so I feel the feedback may be useful. Some of you might recognize the character from my other piece 'Blood of Gold'
© 2010 - 2021 harunokaze
anonymous's avatar
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RBMIfan's avatar
Very interesting piece you have here. I agree with the other reviewers that you do a good job of drawing the reader in. Don't think I can give much in the way of advice that hasn't already been given. I can only say that I didn't really find this paragraph confusing. Sure, it doesn't tell us everything that's going on, but I'm good at taking stuff in and forming my own conclusions while I wait for an explanation :P

I gather from this that the story takes place in a medieval or Victorian-type setting (or at least not a modern setting), and that Leralia's wedding, which I assume has been planned for a while, has been suddenly canceled. While still trying to digest this news, and probably not in a very good mood, Leralia has been sent to do some mundane chore. Possibly in an attempt to get her mind off the wedding, or possibly to get her out of the way. I say the wedding was canceled rather than postponed, because they don't seem very concerned about the dress. Why try and keep a wedding dress clean if it's not going to be used, after all? Did the groom die?
kittylivers's avatar
I really like this piece. Its so short, and it really grabs your attention. I'm impressed at how much bitterness and suspense you can fit into such a short piece. It sounds like an exciting story.
StormyWolf's avatar
Very catching entry. You have everyone clamoring to know WHAT ABOUT THE BLEEDING MAN!? But, placing us in her head serves to let us know exactly what she feels like walking in. She's obviously disappointed. Down on her luck, perhaps? And then, what does she find? A bleeding man. Great. Perfect! Why not?! We're right there with her.

I do have to ask, though, if it is her wedding day...why is she being 'sent to the stables'? It seems like brides are rarely ordered around on their big day. Granted, things don't seem to be going her way today, but you'd think she's still in charge of her special day. Then again, we still don't know what era this is in...

But she's in her gown! Why would she be anywhere near the stables in her wedding gown?! Those things get dirty SO easily, why chance anything happening to it? Grass stains, mud stains, tripping into a horse's...yeah.

And why would she be changing out of her gown before she was wed? Or is she unwed because her groom walked out on her? In that case (again) why is she being sent to the stables? Shouldn't she be bawling on her bed/the couch?

A lot of questions, I know, and I'm not saying I need all the answers right now... BUT the more you can answer (or have answered in later portions), the better off you'll be.

Best of luck from your very intrigued reader,
PaperDart's avatar
Why is it so important that she was sent to check on the horses when there's a bleeding man in front of her?

That's my first thought on coming to the end of the paragraph! I'm certainly intrigued, but the last line leaves me feeling like the story's about to degenerate into backstory, which is rarely fun. That said, I like the opening. :D

I see there's been some debate about how much you need to tell in the first paragraph. My tuppeny wor' is that if the first paragraph hooks the audience, you have the second - and the rest of the book - to explain. Sure, without a solid second paragraph - and it would need a fair deal of explanation - this one wouldn't work, but I'll trust that you have that set up somewhere else. ;)

Since the piece is quite short, I'll look at it line by line:

"Had it not been her wedding day, Leralia would have never discovered the man bleeding in her father's stables."

This is good. :D Very intriguing - although I'm not sure why she wouldn't have been in the stables on another day. That'll need an explanation soon.

"It was early evening and she should have been in a carriage, headed for her husband's estates. She should have been gently drunk on honeyed wine. She should have, at the very least, been married."

Great build up here. :nod:

"Instead, unwed and yet to change out of her gown,"

Nice scene setting.

"she had been sent to check on the horses."

Wut? This is very mundane and doesn't fit with the rest of the paragraph. I also think that it contradicts an earlier statement, which suggests that she's not usually in the stables and wouldn't be any good at checking on the horses.

If you're intending to create a contrast, do it with a bit more power. If you just need to get her into the stable, another reason would be more convincing. Perhaps she disappeared to cry? Somebody might have chased her? I'm sure you can think of something. :)

Overall, I think this is a good opening, although it's not quite perfect. It would be enough to get me to read on though, which means it's achieving it's aim!
harunokaze's avatar
Thank you for taking the time to leave such an extensive well thought out critique. I'm extremely appreciative of your thoughts.

Unfortunately, I'm not entirely sure how to react to them. That is, I'm not sure whether the issue you point out (the issue of her being in the stables) is really an issue or not.

That's the problem with giving just a first paragraph. The reason for her being sent to the stables is made quite clear in the second paragraph as is how that relates to her not being married, and how both those things connect with the bleeding man she finds there. At least, I think they are.

I don't mean to defend myself here, because I think it's important to accept critique in the spirit it's given, that being that as a writer, you can hardly expect to be able to explain yourself to ever reader. I think I'm just asking a question in a roundabout way.

So, question, do you feel that the mundane and out of place 'she had been sent to check on the horses' is alright if the reason for it is quickly cleared up and gives depth to the current situation? Or is it problematic regardless?
PaperDart's avatar
:lol: I think that's a reasonable perspective on it - ignore what's not relevant, please!

Personally, I think you can get away with almost anything in the first paragraph if the second clears it up. I could argue (from a fairly purist position, in my opinion) that nothing should depend on a later part of the story, but that's a stylistic preference not an absolute. So basically, I think what you have now is fine if it's developed well in the next paragraph. :nod:
Tannalein's avatar
A very engaging first paragraph, it grabs the attention of the reader right off with the wedding day and a bleeding man in the same sentence (though the bleeding man is probably more to blame, wedding day being just a bonus ;) ). It leaves the reader wanting to find out what the hell happened :D

The first sentence made me think she did get married, but the rest of the paragraph explained it quite nicely.

I have to disagree with the previous commenters. I don't think that an explanation like "nothing had gone as planned today though" is really required, I think readers are intelligent enough to figure it out for themselves. You're showing it, you don't need to tell it as well. Your alternate sentence "The day Leralia was supposed to be married, she found a man bleeding in the stables." is much to simple compared to the rest of it, it feels to me like jeans and t-shirt in a ballroom full of evening gowns, if you know what I mean. Whes said she doesn't want to wade through details before she gets to find out what happens next. My boyfriend always makes a fuss if he doesn't understand right off what's going on at the beginning of a book or a movie, but that doesn't mean that every book or a movie should start with a summary of what's it about and how it's going to end (would "The Sixth Sense" have the same impact if we knew from the beginning Bruce Willis's character was dead?). If we give the reader what they want or what they expect, it would be a rather boring read. I find it much more interesting to tease the reader and even string him along for a bit. Same thing with Halatia - she wants to know straight from the first chapter the things that were meant to be explained in the second, or third, or forth chapter, or perhaps it takes the whole novel to explain them. I believe that the beginning can be as confusing as it needs to be, as long as everything is clear in the end, providing you don't have to re-read everything three times to figure it all out.

This is just my point of view though. I would love to hear what others think of this matter :)
harunokaze's avatar
Thank you for taking the time to comment and for presenting a counter-point to some of the other comments made here. I will be sure to keep your opinions in mind along with the others when I start pecking away at revisions. That's the problem with seeking the advice of a diverse group of people, isn't it? You get five or six points of view on the same sentence, and they all seem to contradict each other. I guess in writing, there's always more than one 'right' way to go about things.
Tannalein's avatar
Hehe, I know what you mean. I once brought a paragraph in a chatroom to workshop it, the first person said it was not descriptive enough, then when I put some descriptions to it, the second person told me there was too much description :giggle:. It all ended up in a debate description vs. non-description. In the end I was more confused then at the beginning, and ended up writing something that was totally not my style, it just looked awkward and forced.

What I was tying to say with my previous comment, is that you already have a good thing going on here. None of the previous comments were wrong, per se, it's just that they were all basically saying how they would have done it, while in the end, you need to think about how you would have done it. Read the comments, think about them, just use your own voice in the end, not someone else's. And trust your instincts. It sounds cliché, I know, but that little voice in the back of my mind has never been wrong to this day, only I was wrong for not listening to it.
Halatia's avatar
I think this is a really interesting beginning. I like how you've set up the "She should have been doing this" scenarios. But, like some other have said, I'm a little confused about what is happening.

Is it her wedding day or not? The first line suggests that it is, as does the last ("yet to change out of her gown") but...clearly it isn't her wedding day as she isn't married and isn't doing all those things that she 'should be.' So I've read it as a woman who thinks she SHOULD be getting married, but for whatever reason, it's just not her time--like the cliche of "always a bridesmaid, never a bride." So instead of doing all those awesome wedding things, she's out finding men bleeding in stables (which is considerably more exciting than a wedding, anyway :D ).

The other way to read it is that she's been stood up at her own wedding, left at the alter, which would explain why she's in a gown.

Is any of this rambling making sense? Can you let me know which way it is (what the role of the protagonist is: bride or not)? That way, I might be able to give less confused feedback. :D
harunokaze's avatar
I can see how that would confuse you, though I'm not sure if it's something that needs fixing, or if might simply need the context of the second paragraph. I'll think on it, though.

It is indeed the day when her wedding was intended to take place, and she is indeed dressed for said wedding. While she wasn't stood up, the wedding was interrupted in a way that led (fairly directly) to the man bleeding in the stables.

Thanks for taking the time to comment, and for pointing out the apparent ambiguities in the paragraph. It's harder to see these things when you know what's going on.
Whes's avatar
I just want to say that the opening sentence really caught my attention because of the clear and interesting scenario it set up. I was disappointed to find out there was a only a paragraph to the whole thing... But maybe that's for the better.

I'm not fond of the repetition of "she should have". You summed up the situation so beautifully and concisely in the first sentence; you ought to be just as concise in the following ones. Just say something like, "She should have been in a carriage headed for her husband's estates, but instead she was checking on the horses, still in her wedding gown and still unmarried." You can go into all that other detail a bit later, when it's pertinent. Deal with the situation at hand first, then go back and catch us up. It's too interesting a first sentence for me to want to wade through details before I get to find out what happens next. I want to know what's up with the bleeding man! Screw the weather. :)
Whes's avatar
Oh, also. I feel like "would never have discovered" is more appropriate than "would have never discovered". I can't explain why. "Would have never discovered" just sounds awkward to me, like something a little kid would say... I could try to grammatically defend my stance, but I don't know where I'd end up... :|
harunokaze's avatar
I think you're right on 'would never have' sounding better than 'would have never' and I'll adjust that if I end up keeping the first sentence intact as it is. Thank you for pointing it out.

And thank you for your measured and thoughtful comment as well. I'll consider what you said, play with it a bit, though personally I tend to be fond of little sets of repetition like that, but that doesn't mean I'm always right to use them.
Whes's avatar
Oh, it's not the repetition itself I was picking on. Sorry to be vague! XD It's just that I feel there is a more effective way to convey your information here. Repetition is fine! I love parallelism! c;
Nicktroptopolis's avatar
This sounds like a good start, but the opening sentence seems a little misleading.
It sounds as though you're going to start explaining why she wouldn't normally be in the stables if she hadn't been getting married, but instead you start listing the things that haven't gone according to plan with the wedding day. Both work, it's just a little confused. The first sentence is good, because it instantly introduces the concept of a wedding and presumably a murder, so I think instead of changing it, you could maybe add another sentence in between the first and third, just saying something along the lines of "nothing had gone as planned today though", just so it's a smoother introduction.

Aside from that though, it's a very interesting start, just the right mix of description and plot, and I think if you straighten things out it could be a very good opener.
harunokaze's avatar
Hmm, well, my original opener for the paragraph was, "The day Leralia was supposed to be married, she found a man bleeding in the stables." Do you think that might work a bit better? I feel like it doesn't flow as well into the subsequent lines.

Thank you for taking the time to comment, I'm glad you think it's working overall, if not perfectly.
Nicktroptopolis's avatar
Don't mention it :)

I do like the one you've got up here, but in terms of flow I think this one you've just suggested works better.
TutiFrutti112's avatar
I think this is a great start. I don't usually read through the things from my clubs, but this really caught my attention.
harunokaze's avatar
Well, if there's one thing I want the opening to do, it's grab attention. Grabbing yours is a step in the right direction. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.
QuietCritic's avatar
I like the way you set up a "would have been" scenario that leads the reader through the paragraph, and leaves an opening at the end where the next paragraph will pick up. Nicely done!

(It's always tricky crafting the right beginning.)
harunokaze's avatar
I'm glad the opening for you. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, and even more for faving! Openings are really difficult for me at times. I think I rewrote the opening of my last completed piece about nine times. So the encouragement is much appreciated!
anonymous's avatar
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